By John Basher
The 2017 Monster Energy Supercross schedule will once again contain 17 races, with nine rounds for the 250 East and nine for the 250 West. While there’s discussion among Feld Motor Sports and the manufacturers about the potential for a longer series in the future, the 2017 series is set at 17 rounds. A decade ago, the Supercross series was 16 rounds. In its 40-plus years, the length of the series has fluctuated. Since 1985 Supercross has held a 125 Eastern and Western regional series (now the 250 class), which was designed as a feeder class for the 250 (now 450) class. The AMA has changed the eligibility rules quite a few times since then. What you need to know, as well as every 250 Pro Supercross racer should, are the current AMA eligibility rules.
The last time the AMA changed the 250 eligibility rule was in 2007. That rule remains in effect for 2017. It states, “Effective with the 2007 season points, riders earning at least 135 250SX Championship points in a nine-race season, 120 250SX Championship points in an eight-race season, or 105 250SX Championship points in a seven-race season, in three season of 250SX competition will be ineligible for the 250SX class.” However, there are two other rules that can effect a rider’s eligibility. Those are highlighted below:
5.2 250SX East/West Championship Guidelines
e. AMA 250SX Regional Champions may defend their championship’s the following season, with the following clarifications…
2. A rider that wins a 250SX Championship will be eligible to participate in the 250SX class for a maximum of three years total regardless of what year he/she won the title. (i.e. if a rider wins the Championship in their third year of 250SX competition, they will be ineligible for the 250SX class regardless of points and therefore not eligible to defend their 250SX Championship title).
3. After a rider wins a second Championship, in either region, the rider will be ineligible for the 250SX class, regardless of points or number of years in class.
Rule 5.2, section e, number 2 is the one most 250 team managers and agents take issue with. They believe that any first-time 250 Supercross Champion should be allowed to defend his title, regardless of number of years spent in the 250 class. If that rule were rescinded, Malcolm Stewart would be allowed to race one more season of 250 Supercross (and then be bumped up to the 450 class in 2018). Instead, Malcolm doesn’t currently have a 450 offer on the table. Given that Anaheim 1 is just over a month away, time is quickly running out for the younger Stewart to line up at the opener with any level of support. I tend to agree with 250 team managers and agents on this subject, mainly because history has proven that Broc Tickle and Wil Hahn weren’t completely ready for the 450 class after winning their 250 titles. Given that no one has jumped at the opportunity to sign Malcolm Stewart for a ride in 2017, it’s fair to say that he could use another year in the 250 class to improve his value.
WHO WILL BE IN DANGER OF GETTING BUMPED OUT OF THE 250 CLASS WHEN THE DUST SETTLES AFTER THE 2017 SUPERCROSS SERIES? SHOULD THERE BE AN INFLUX OF NEW 450 RIDERS FOR 2018, WILL THERE BE ENOUGH RIDES AVAILABLE, OR WILL AN EVER LARGER NUMBER OF RIDERS BE LEFT IN THE COLD THAN HAVE BEEN HUNG OUT TO DRY FOR 2017?
Let’s cut to the chase of this story. I wanted to uncover two crucial points. (1) Who will be in danger of getting bumped out of the 250 class when the dust settles after the 2017 Supercross series concludes? (2) Should there be an influx of new 450 riders for 2018, will there be enough rides available, or will an ever larger number of riders be left in the cold than have been hung out to dry for 2017? I don’t have a crystal ball, so it’s impossible to say right now what will happen. No one can foretell the future; not the Mayans or that whack job David Koresh. However, based on historical results, it’s plausible to figure out which riders will more than likely be out of a 250 job for 2018. That list is below.
Joey Savatgy: The Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider came up two points shy of winning the 2016 AMA 250 West Supercross title. Had he edged out Cooper Webb for the championship, Savatgy would have been bumped up to the 450 class for 2017. Joey said in our interview with him this week that he would have had a seat at the table for ’17 (probably as the second rider on the Monster Kawasaki 450 factory program). However, none of that matters now. Barring something strange happening, Savatgy should use up his last year of eligibility in 2017. He’s a front-runner for a 250 Supercross title, regardless of the coast he’s competing in. Expect Joey Savatgy to join the 450 ranks in 2018.
Jeremy Martin: Geico Honda’s new hire should break the 135-point barrier this coming season, meaning that he will be forced up to the 450 class in 2018 regardless of if he wins the title or not. Martin was trying to land a 450 ride for 2017, but it didn’t happen. Reportedly Martin’s up-and-down 250 Supercross results hindered Jeremy’s signing value among team managers and sponsors. That’s the sad reality of business. The good news is that Geico Honda snatched up the two-time 250 National Championship after Martin wanted out of the tumultuous relationship with Star Racing Yamaha. Jeremy has a two-year deal, and apparently the contract is written up in a way that Martin will be a full-time 450 rider in 2018. Jeremy is sitting pretty, no matter who moves up in ’18.
Martin Davalos: Believe it or not, Davalos is still eligible to race 250 Supercross. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider from Ecuador began racing 250 Supercross in 2006. Just to give you an idea of how long ago that was, he raced against Davi Millsaps, Christopher Gosselaar, Josh Grant, Branden Jesseman and Bobby Kiniry. Credit to Davalos for making a successful career of racing in the 250 class. Martin has burned up two years of eligibility, and he should eclipse the 135-point barrier in 2017. It’s possible that 2017 will be his last year in 250 Supercross, even if he doesn’t win the title.
Others: There’s a large group of riders who could fall victim of the dreaded three-and-out rule. That list includes Shane McElrath, Matt Bisceglia, Justin Hill, Zach Osborne, Aaron Plessinger and Alex Martin.
What does this all mean? Hypothetically, there could be as many as five riders forced to move up to the 450 class in 2018. Will there be enough veteran 450 riders who will call it quits after the 2017 season in order to open up spots? Will race teams increase their budgets to accommodate rookie 450 riders? Will new race teams join the fray in 2018? This offseason has proven that winning a 250 Supercross title doesn’t guarantee a seat at the 450 table. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look promising for 250 class riders who point out in 2017. That reminds me of Austin Forkner and his steadfast decision to skip out on racing the 2016 AMA 250 East series, despite needling from the likes of Chad Reed. Look at it this way–imagine if Forkner would have raced in 2016 and then won a 250 Supercross title in 2018. Under current rules, he would be forced to move up at the tender age of 19.